There is no liminal space in the Arctic Summer

Following a return visit to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge last year – filled with caribou, brown bear and Dall sheep sightings – Alaska Wilderness League member Thea Levkovitz found it difficult to encapsulate the experience in words. Fortunately, she found inspiration in her memories of the excursion, providing us with an artful depiction – through her eyes and heart – of her time in the Arctic, which you can find below.

There is no Liminal Space in the Arctic Summer
Thea Levkovitz, 2023

All is illuminated, all the time.

The sun circles low on the horizon day and night from spring to fall.

I doze deep in a sleeping bag – a dark cocoon of my own making where night is illusory.

From morning dream-time, I am pulled from half-slumber by this waking vision – 10,000 caribou – mothers and newly born calves, screeching their bonding to each other in unending cacophony.

There is no rest. Within minutes of birth, calves are wobbling on puppet legs. To move with the herd is paramount, to escape predators, some four-legged and millions more winged, with blood thirst.

In the bright night of sleep, I gaze into the low-slung sun where caribou silhouette against the edge of the earth.

Enveloped within a murmuration of ungulates – continually alert, moving, shifting, reforming.

There is no stillness in the Arctic summer.

On this land, suspended in 19 million acres of wild, I float, paddle and navigate from the Brooks Range north nearly 100 miles to the Arctic Ocean.

Traveling through luminescent blue ice floes, cataracts of white water, passing tundra plants not yet green with spring amid thousands of miles of rain-logged permafrost.

Within this treeless unending landscape, nothing is hidden.

There are no secrets in the Arctic summer.

From an ice-encased tent, I crawl into the false and frigid morning.

The solitary black wolf stands. We pause in the shared alone inhaling the same wet breathless moment.

She watches strange two-legged creatures with their vibrant unnaturally colored skins.

Unconcerned, she turns to her path, filled with a purpose known only to her.

All-time flows in the arctic summer.

A silent wall of ice fog advances, creeps over the vast, mystifying braided river.

Undifferentiation overtakes rafts, tents, willow ptarmigan, golden plovers, grizzly bears, silty roiling water.

Here I could be lost completely in a different, darker interstitial place.

With no shadow, sight is unknown on the Arctic ice.

How shall I leave this undifferentiated Arctic summer?

Yet, for now, this is the work, to move among.

To live the liminal between-time, between-space, between-light, movement and stillness.

To toggle.

Stepping purposefully into solid worlds.

To fulfill our covenant, we carry within us the places of love and make whole this splintered world.

Until we go back to the place of leaving.

How could there be liminal space in the Arctic summer when there is only the deepest cellular belonging?